Beech-Nut finds high arsenic levels in their baby rice cereal

Originally published at: Beech-Nut finds high arsenic levels in their baby rice cereal | Boing Boing


I stopped recommending rice cereal for infants a few years back for this reason. It’s not just Beech-Nut, it’s any rice sourced from grounds that used to grow cotton, which is most of them. Sad but true.


Bored Will And Grace GIF by Cameo


No no, you have to market it as a feature. “Now with 35% more arsenic!”




But, but, but arsenic in rice is NATURAL!!


I hope at least their chewing tobacco is still safe…


It is so easy to transition infants to whole foods that we never even bothered with cereals or jarred baby food. They went straight from breast milk to sweet potatoes, Matzo Brai, avocados, etc. now the Peas Twins are 15 and have excellent diets with very few things they won’t eat. Unless you’re specifically trying to supplement for a missing nutrient or deficiency, I never understood this. Of course, some mothers have difficulty breastfeeding or supply problems, so I know this can be a supplemental need (we did supplement formula for the Littlest Pea for that very reason), but if a baby doesn’t need processed foods, why even introduce them?

Edited because I meant whole foods, not Whole Foods.


All rice has arsenic in it. Best to par boil it in a large quantity of water for about 4 min and then drain that water, add a smaller amount back to the rice and finish cooking.


a limited quantity of Beech-Nut Single Grain Rice Cereal products had levels of naturally-occurring inorganic arsenic above the FDA guidance level, even though the rice flour used to produce these products tested below the FDA guidance level for inorganic arsenic," Jacobs said.

So did the acceptable levels of arsenic in the raw rice flour get somehow added to in the production process, or did they stay the same in aggregate but in some way get accreted in some batches of product - and presumably diluted in other batches of product - that were made from the same batch of rice flour?


Beech-Nut finds high arsenic levels in their baby rice cereal

Beech-Nut is recalling its infant rice cereal

Make your mind up. (It should, strictly, be “its”.)


All rice have traces of inorganic arsenic, hence the age old practice of washing rice before eating. I imagine this can be “difficult” to do on an industrial scale.


How doable is this with a rice cooker, though? I guess you could parboil it in a pot then transfer it, but then I don’t know if the shutoff mechanism in the cooker will work correctly.




Basic rice cookers just turn off when the water is evaporated (when the temp goes above ~212˚F). Fuzzy rice cookers are a bit different.

I imagine they’d work fine with just a bit less water and normal settings. You can also wash your rice before cooking (which many people already do for the resulting texture). Or, check the source of your rice. There was a recent study. Texas and Arkansas seemed to have the highest levels. California, India, and Pakistan seemed to have the safest levels. That article also points to old cotton fields as the source, like @docosc mentioned.


I buy parboiled rice in 10-15lb bags at the Costco/Sam’s/BJs. Since it’s already parboiled would I still need to wash it? My family doesn’t eat that much rice anyway, but any simple trick that helps is always a good thing to know.

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Obviously there’s more detailed info out there. Here’s something from Consumer Report to chew on in the meantime:

How much arsenic is in your rice?

Consumer Reports’ new data and guidelines are important for everyone but especially for gluten avoiders

Published: November 2014

In late 2012 we released our original report on arsenic in rice, in which we found measurable levels in almost all of the 60 rice varieties and rice products we tested.

Our most recent testing and analysis gave us some new information on the risk of arsenic exposure in infants and children through rice cereal and other rice products. We looked at data released by the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 on the inorganic arsenic content of 656 processed rice-containing products. We found that rice cereal and rice pasta can have much more inorganic arsenic—a carcinogen—than our 2012 data showed. According to the results of our new tests, one serving of either could put kids over the maximum amount of rice we recommend they should have in a week. Rice cakes supply close to a child’s weekly limit in one serving. Rice drinks can also be high in arsenic, and children younger than 5 shouldn’t drink them instead of milk. (Learn the new rice rules about weekly servings.)

Related Topics

In 2012, we recommended that babies eat no more than one serving of infant rice cereal per day, on average, and that their diets should include cereals made from other grains. We did not find any reason to change our advice based on our new analysis. When we shared our results with the FDA and asked for comment, the agency reiterated its recommendation that everyone, including pregnant women, infants, and toddlers, should eat a variety of grains. And they pointed out that parents should "consider options other than rice cereal for a child’s first solid food.”

The trouble with arsenic

Arsenic has two chemical forms, inorganic and organic (the latter of which can be less toxic), and is naturally part of the minerals in the earth’s crust. (Note, here organic is a chemistry term and should not be confused with food sold as “organic.”) Arsenic also has been released into the environment through the use of pesticides and poultry fertilizer. (Chickens can be fed arsenic.) Therefore, it’s in soil and water. Rice tends to absorb arsenic more readily than many other plants.

Regular exposure to small amounts of arsenic can increase the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancer, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Recent studies also suggest that arsenic exposure in utero may have effects on the baby’s immune system.

The USA Rice Federation says, “Studies show that including white or brown rice in the diet provides measureable health benefits that outweigh the potential risks associated with exposure to trace levels of arsenic.” Consumer Reports food safety experts believe those levels do carry a risk.

There is no federal limit for arsenic in rice and rice products. (The FDA has proposed a “action level” for arsenic in juice.) Since 2012, Consumer Reports has been calling on the FDA to set one. The agency told us: “The FDA’s ongoing assessment of arsenic in rice remains a priority for the agency. Last year, the FDA released what we believe to be the largest set of test results to date on the presence of arsenic in rice and rice products, and we are planning to release a draft assessment of the potential health risks associated with the consumption of arsenic in these same foods.”


uh… the arsenic is in the rice, not on it…


have you tried Zyklon-B or Nerve Gas?

Difficult to say but if it wasn’t washed before it was parboiled I bet it wouldn’t hurt to wash it again.


Well damn, I guess we’re going to be buying rice cookers with one more feature. (Well, detecting the [As] and calling out how good the curry’d better be to make do would be a good one. Using some canny new high-throughput microscopy to floof the rice 7 more ways and draw out the arsenic for purpose ant-proofing the place, would be another.)